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Mountain pygmy possum

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The mountain pygmy possum (Burramys parvus) is a small, mouse-sized (weighs 45 g) nocturnal marsupial of Australia. It is found high up (1300 to 2230 metres) in rock screes and boulder fields of southern Victoria and in Kosciuszko National Park, New South Wales.

This possum is a Lazarus taxon, and the only living species in the Burramys genus. It is also the only Australian mammal restricted to an alpine habitat. Its prehensile tail,[1] at ~14 cm, is longer than its 11 cm head and body length. Its diet consists of insects, fleshy fruits, nuts, nectar and seeds.

The mountain pygmy possum was first described as a Pleistocene fossil by Robert Broom in 1896. It was thought to be extinct until 1966, when a living specimen was discovered in a ski-hut on Mount Hotham.[2]

Three geographically isolated populations are known to exist.[3][4] These populations have been shown to be genetically distinct.[5][6] For most of the year, males and females live apart from each other. The females live on the better part of the rocky slopes, while the males live on the margins, usually lower on the mountain. In order to breed, the males migrate to the females' habitat. During the ski season on Mount Higginbotham, the males had to cross a road which put their survival in jeopardy. A "Tunnel of Love" was constructed under the road and a road sign was put in place to warn drivers.


  1. prehensile = able to hold on to things like branches
  2. Turner, Vivienne and McKay G.M. (1989). "27. Burramyidae". In Walton D.W. and Richardson B.J. (eds). Fauna of Australia, Volume 1B: Mammalia. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service. ISBN 0-644-06056-5 . 
  3. Heinze D. & Williams L. 1998. The discovery of the mountain pygmy-possum, Burramys parvus on Mount Buller, Victoria. Victorian Naturalist, 115, 132-134.
  4. Broome L.S. 2001. Intersite differences in population demography of Mountain Pygmy-possums Burramys parvus Broom (1986-1998): implications for metapopulation conservation and ski resorts in Kosciuszko National Park, Australia. Biological Conservation 102, 309-323.
  5. Osborne M.J. et al. 2000. Genetic distinctedness of isolated populations of an endangered marsupial, the mountain pygmy-possum, Burramys parvus. Molecular Ecology, 9, 609-613.
  6. Mitrovski P. et al. 2007. High levels of variation despite genetic fragmentation in populations of the endangered mountain pygmy-possum, Burramys parvus, in alpine Australia. Molecular Ecology, 16, 75-87.